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Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Sunday, Jan 20, 2013
Darryl Manzer

Darryl Manzer

Earthquakes are a part of living in California. I’ve got a few memories of being in a pool and having the water slosh back and forth during a “minor” one. I had just moved from Benicia in 1989 to Virginia when the Loma Prieta quake hit.

I was stationed in Connecticut in 1971 and missed the Sylmar shaker. Same with the 1994 Northridge quake. So now that I’m back, does it mean the quakes will go someplace else? I hope so.

When I lived in Virginia, folks would ask me what an earthquake was like. I couldn’t explain it. Not long ago they learned all about one.

Moving back West I did in stages. First stage was to Western Kentucky to a little town called Cadiz. It was recommended that we get earthquake insurance. You see, that town is about 80 miles from New Madrid, Mo. That is the place where the strongest quake in the lower 48 happened in 1811. It was so strong that for a time, the Mississippi River flowed backward and church bells as far away as Baltimore shook enough to make them ring. I know I’m going to hear about the big quake at Fort Tejon in 1857, but I do believe the 1811 one in New Madrid was stronger.

I got the insurance. Actually it was cheap, when I compare it to what I paid for hurricane protection in Virginia.

An earthquake policy here isn’t cheap, either. But it is worth it.

In 1898 there was a pretty strong quake that folks at the time blamed on all of the drilling in Pico Canyon. It didn’t get to the stage of folks gathering torches and pitchforks and marching up from Newhall in protest – but they were sure it was the wells in Pico.

FEMA photo by Robert A. Eplett, 1/17/1994

As in 1971, elevated freeways in the Newhall Pass fell in 1994. FEMA photo by Robert A. Eplett, 1/17/1994

With every natural emergency we feel a need to connect with family and friends who may have been affected by whatever calamity befell them. Earthquakes, brush fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, even a Tsunami when I was in Hawaii for a while gave reason to try to connect.

Those times, such connections are nearly impossible. Phone lines jammed and unable to reach anyone. I know that in the 1994 quake – the anniversary of which just passed on Thursday – we finally got information by calling my niece in Long Beach who had talked to family here in the SCV and all was OK, or good as could be expected.

What we saw on television in Virginia about that quake was enough to scare anyone but had the greatest effect on us ex-pat Californians. We could see the flames from broken natural gas mains burning in the streets along with water from fractured water lines flowing around the flames.

And the freeways were down. Like in 1971, that high connecting ramp from the 14 to the 5 had dropped. Worse yet was that anytime there was a new report, the East Coast TV used those shots to open and close reports on the quake.

The Pico Cottage in Mentryville, where the writer lived in the 1960s, was knocked off of its foundation and its porch roof fell off in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. Photo circa 1995 by Leon Worden.

The Pico Cottage in Mentryville, where the writer lived in the 1960s, was knocked off of its foundation and its porch roof fell off in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. Photo circa 1995 by Leon Worden.

A very graphic but terrible connection for us to see, and that one is etched deeply into my memory.

And then there was the picture of Pico Cottage damaged. Moved nearly six feet off the foundation and the porch roof down on the porch floor. I cried. Hadn’t lived there in 28 years but my home was damaged. A connection was nearly gone.

Mow that the holiday season has passed and the new year has started, have all y’all thought about those connections you only make at holidays or emergencies? Those little everyday connections mean so much, no matter what the occasion.

My dentist, Dr. Dell Goodrick on Lyons Avenue, went to Carpinteria High School – as I did, too, if only for one semester. We can talk about the streets and byways of that town and connect. His office is on a street I traveled many times each day to get to school and other events from Mentryville. Another connection.

These connections are important to all of us. I can drive to Mentryville and just stand in the parking lot, breathing in all of the rich connections of memories of a place I love. Is there a place like that for you? Is there someone or something you’d like to reconnect with or keep the connection going?

My sisters tell me that when we lived on Drayton Street in Saugus (I lived there from ages 2 to 3), we would go to the Saugus Café and I loved the pancakes. I don’t remember that, of course. But the other day I realized I had been going to that restaurant for more than 61 years. What a connection there. Hey, the menu is about the same, too.

So, leave the malls and connect with something more substantial. Call or visit a loved one or friend. Drop by a nursing home and take the time to talk to someone so they can have a connection, too. Go see Old Town Newhall, Mentryville, Hart Park, Heritage Junction or wherever. Maybe you’d like to see Fort Tejon and the many splendors of Gorman, Lebec and Piru. Take friends and family along.

In making those connections now, there is a connection when emergencies arise. Please don’t miss those connections. They might not come again.

 

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com and his commentaries, published on Sundays, are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. Stephen Petzold says:

    Very nice piece with great suggestions.

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